JBL Emerging Interview: How Linney became an accidental EDM star

In this Emerging Headliner interview powered by JBL, L.A.-based singer songwriter Linney explains why being considered too musical theatre for one college and too pop for another led her to find her voice as an unlikely EDM star.

For an artist that had no intention of conquering the world of EDM, Linney has certainly been making waves across the dance scene. Her tracks have been featured on Riverdale, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Ghosted: Love Gone Missing on MTV and in Fortnite. You’ll also find her collabs and projects in heavy rotation on Sirius XM BPM and Spotify, where she now boasts over 12 million listeners – with 42 million streams and counting…

In this candid interview conducted at the Harman Experience Center in Los Angeles, Linney delves into the meaning behind her new uplifting single, One More Day – a personal ode to her father about living life to the fullest.

Music is my superpower; it allows me to transform the negative into something positive.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your new track, One More Day?

This one's got a little bit of a story… When I was seven, my dad had a heart attack – that he survived – but he lost half of his left ventricle. The doctors saved his life, and since then he's gone on to be 80 years old – he's building a shed in our backyard right now! But he had a pacemaker put in when I was in high school.

The day before I wrote the song, my dad called me and told me he had a checkup with his cardiologist who told him that his ejection fraction, (which is the pumping efficiency), which is normally about 50 to 75 in a healthy person, had fallen close to below 20. 

That's when people start considering heart transplants, but based on his age, he's not eligible for that. As he was telling me this, I was trying not to cry, but he was optimistic. He was excited because he told me that there was a worst case scenario where he could have a pump installed, and that would not be long term, but it would give him one more day.

I was pretty emotional about hearing this news – it didn't seem like a long term solution. The next day, I had a session and I told my co-writer the story. We were inspired by this concept of doing anything you could to just have one more day with the ones that you love. 

I'd written down my in song journal, “Nothing I won't do for one more day.” We took that and we turned it into a song that I hope, even if it's a sad story, is uplifting, and lets people know that they're not alone in what they're dealing with.

it was never an option for me to use the word fail. How can you fail if you don't stop chasing what you love?

It sounds like music is very therapeutic for you, in addition to being able to connect with your fans who might be going through something similar. Have you found that to be the case?

Yes, everyone has some form of hardship that they go through in life. I think it's really important for them to be able to look at the musicians and the artists that they like and know that they have gone through something similar. That provides this connection between you and your audience.

I feel like music is my superpower, because it allows me to transform the negative into something positive. It’s something that might help somebody and let them know they're not alone in what they're feeling, even if that's just one person. I think it's pretty beautiful to be able to turn something into love.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

My parents listened to a lot of who I consider to be great songwriters: James Taylor, Carly Simon, Carole King – very acoustic, chill stuff. 

So it's funny that I'm now making electronic music – that's a little heavy for them! I think what matters most to me in music, no matter what genre I've ventured through in my career, is the storytelling and the emotion. I was surrounded by that growing up.

I felt like I was learning how to be a caricature of a person.

What is the first concert that you remember going to?

The first big one was in Raleigh, and I saw Green Day and Jimmy Eat World. My high school boyfriend wanted me to dye his hair black for the concert and I put eyeliner on him. It was pretty funny, and the show was great!.

What have been some of your musical influences that led you to pursue this path?

I love pop music. I've listened to Taylor Swift all throughout growing up. I love pop punk stuff too, which doesn't show up in my music at all, but it's a guilty pleasure. And Cascada, who are pretty poppin’ in Europe, was the first influence in terms of me enjoying dance music.

I am such an emotional person – it's a blessing and a curse because you feel everything.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a performer and make your own music?

I started with piano and singing; I just want to write my own songs. I should have kept with the lessons because I could have read fluently by now! Then I went down the musical theatre route for a little bit. I took voice lessons starting in sixth grade after starring as Wendy in Peter Pan and then I dedicated my high school experience to preparing for auditioning for college.

I auditioned for a BFA program in Boston, but I felt like I was learning how to be a caricature of a person. I missed the focus of having more control over what I was saying and what I was sharing instead of just reading other people's lines that had been written for me. So I left the program and I made my own major by taking classes at Berklee.

What was the transition like, going from Emerson to Berklee?

I was still officially at Emerson but taking classes at Berklee [laughs]. People thought I was too musical theatre at Berklee, and at Emerson, they thought I was too pop. So I just took the spaghetti and threw it against the fridge and saw what stuck. Because I studied country, I studied jazz; it took me a while to really find my voice within all of that.

the first rave I went to, I was performing at it!

How does someone make the leap from music theatre geek, to solo piano, to EDM?

[Smiles] Top lining is when you receive the track, and you write a vocal and melody and lyrics on top of it. I start my songs as piano vocals, most of the time, and I send them and pitch them to producers that way. So I'll sit down on the piano, or I’ll write to a splice loop and send it to other artists and they decide if they want to produce it or if they want to release it. That is how I've built my career. Surprisingly, people in dance music love a piano vocal!

So how does one go from Emerson to Berklee to being able to pitch songs to producers?

I've always been super driven – probably to the point where I work too hard and I don't let myself rest – but I was one of those weird kids who was five and was like, “I'm going to sing and write music, and that's what I'm going to do.” I don't know how, because my parents are scientists – they run a lab researching zebrafish, which is amazing, but so different.

I guess it was just never an option for me to use the word fail. How can you fail if you don't stop chasing what you love? So, I moved to L.A., which is where I knew I always wanted to end up – probably from watching the Disney Channel [laughs]. I started releasing music whatever way I could, and someone heard some of my stuff.

I just took the spaghetti and threw it against the fridge and saw what stuck.

It was a label in Europe that reached out and was like, “Have you ever sang on a dance track?” I was like, “I don't really know what you mean; I have some songs, you can check them out…?” 

I started releasing more music, and a lot of these big DJs have their own labels so it's really cool how they can then bring up smaller artists and release their songs, and they'll, in return, play it live.

I had a song with an artist who was signed to a label that was owned by Gareth Emery – a trance producer. He ended up playing it in DC at one of his shows and then a couple of months later, his team reached out and asked me about doing a song with him. 

When that happened, I got to perform it with him in Minneapolis at The Armory, which is an incredible venue for 6,000 people. After that song came out, it was a snowball effect of people hearing my voice and wanting me to sing on their tracks.

what I was listening to and what I was mixing sounded performance-ready on my jbl monitors.

Were you into dance music before you started singing on dance tracks?

Honestly, the first rave I went to, I was performing at it! But I love the culture now – I just didn't really know much about it. I am such an emotional person – I think you have to be as a songwriter – it's a blessing and a curse because you feel everything. But that's also what allows you to create art. There's something so powerful about the idea of putting an emotional song to a driving beat, because how can you stop to cry or dissolve into yourself when there's this kick drum that's like your heartbeat? It tells you to keep going! For me that's very unifying.

In your home studio setup, you’ve recently started using JBL 305P MkII powered studio monitors. How have they changed the way you create music and work on new songs?

They are very sleek! They're excellent. I'm not what you might call an audio nerd by the way, but I immediately noticed that what I was listening to and what I was mixing sounded performance-ready. I noticed that it was more of a full sound, with more bass than my last monitors – and you can control that on the back, which is really cool.

It's perfect for home studios. I found myself wanting to sit there and listen instead of going in and changing and skipping between tracks; it felt like I was at a concert, and I really appreciated that.

It is also much easier to just get to the finished product. I listened to my new EP, Desert Dream, which I hadn’t gone all the way through consecutively until then, and I was like, “Okay, it's done!” – because sometimes there's certain things out of your control when it comes to technology. But these are very flattering monitors, for sure!

Interview conducted by Will Hawkins / Harman L.A. experience centre photography by Michelle Shiers.